PPAI Magazine May 2024

At Rupt, which supplies hard goods, every single product the company makes is from recycled materials. The company also focuses on second-life packaging and carbon offsets for every product through a third party. “From a circular economy perspective, we’re using raw materials to repurpose into physical product and having packaging live on after it’s done being boxes,” Lucash says. “We don’t have a fully closed loop yet, but we’ll have some sort of initiative in the future for recycling tech products.” Fellow Texas-based supplier Numo applies creativity to the circularity challenge with its upcycling plan, which takes material from a billboard or other fabric product and repurposes it into a line of tote bags. “Extending any promotional product’s life – either in its initial form or in its new upcycled form – is a huge win not only for the environment, but also for the advertiser,” says Jim Martin, Numo’s national sales manager. “The cost per impression of something in the garbage is infinite.” Toronto-based supplier Redwood Classics Apparel first introduced its upcycling concept in 2014 and has made it a core part of the company’s mission. Prioritizing circular solutions whenever possible, Redwood Classics uses landfill-destined deadstock (unsellable inventory) and turns it into upcycled fabric. “This is where our industry needs to go if we wish to be sustainable and to set an example for other industries,” says Kathy Cheng, president of Redwood Classics. “Just because things have been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean we can’t reinvent ourselves – in fact, I think it is imperative that our industry does reinvent itself.” Resale Means Results In a news environment with no shortage of gloomy updates about our planet’s condition and resources, circular strategies are showing legitimately positive results. For the apparel industry, resale initiatives represent one of the most straightforward steps into the circular economy. According to a study on circular strategies’ impact on carbon reduction by Trove, a branded resale program solutions provider, and Worldly, an impact intelligence platform for the apparel industry, circular initiatives like resale programs have the potential to lower carbon emissions for premium apparel and outdoor brands 16% by 2040. The brands that maximize their revenue from resold items will see the greatest share of Scope 3 emissions benefits, the study says. PPAI’s director of sustainability and responsibility, Elizabeth Wimbush, says that is nothing to sneeze at in the battle against climate change. “Scope 3 emissions account for the lion’s share of most companies’ carbon output, so any reduction in this area will be a win,” she says. Moreover, the potential for industrywide gains is an amplified version of the impact individual companies can make while still growing their annual revenue. The Trove and Worldly study found that, factoring in revenue growth, a company can decrease its need for new production by 23-35% per year through resale programs. Most of the existing models for apparel manufacturing are at odds with a circular economy, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see its potential. As companies in various industries make more strides in resale, it will go from a sneaky competitive advantage for those that can pull it off to a clear disadvantage for those that can’t. “Distributors that prioritize partnering with suppliers that focus on resale will have a growing share of the market as this ask becomes more and more the norm,” Wimbush says. Sourcing materials capable of being recycled “Timeless” branded art that encourages resale Generous warranties to encourage end users to return unneeded products Repair and replacement options Resale initiatives Collection and sorting programs for recycling Mechanisms or processes for recycled commodities to return to the cycle as new inputs Promo-Specific Tips Some factors the promo industry should keep in mind when establishing their circular economy model. bsd studio / VectorMine / limeart / Panuwach / Shutterstock.com Must Read | Circular Economy 64 • MAY 2024 • PPAI